Interns in DC from Japan with Maki Sofia Tello and Yodai Tanaka

By Angel Njoku

Today, we had two Japanese guests in our very small class for the day. Our guests were Maki Sofia Tello and Yodai Tanaka, who are currently participating in an exchange program called Japan Internship for the Development of Young Leaders. They are both undergraduate seniors at their universities in Japan. Maki goes to a private university and she is from Kamakura, Yodai goes to a public university – Hokkaido University. Maki’s major in university is mass communications and Yodai’s major is law. Maki is a public relations student intern at the US Department of Agriculture. Yodai is an intern at Sojitz Corporation of America. After getting to know a little bit about them, we were able to ask them questions.

Their opinions about the difference between US universities and Japanese universities were very fascinating to me. Between my classmates and I, we already know that the tuition in Japan isn’t as high as it is here in the US. They told us that in Japan, the hardest part is taking the entrance exam, because students study for a year or more just because of the test. Yodai told us that he spent his summer studying for his entrance exam from 5am-8pm every day and he started studying in his junior/senior year of high school. We even learned from them that after students get into college, some of them just go to a lot of parties. Something surprising to me was when they said that in Japanese colleges, they don’t take attendance and students only need to pass the final exam to graduate. They know that tuition for American schools is already very high, but they told us some big differences, like how teachers try to interact with their students here while in Japan most teachers won’t do that. They also said that from what they know, US colleges take attendance and students have work that they turn in when given deadlines like reports and essays. With all of the work that US students do, it’s harder for them to graduate, because there is so much more than just a final exam that says if you pass or fail.

Maki also told us that she was half Japanese and half Peruvian and we were able to know how it is different, especially since Japan is a homogenous society. She told us that now it is more accepted, but it wasn’t like that when she was younger. The good thing is that she was never bullied because of it, but since her full name is Maki Sofia Tello, when she was younger her teachers didn’t really say it properly, so you can see the cultural difference there. But she took being half Japanese as an advantage. Something that surprised us all was when she said that her dad never taught her Spanish, because he wanted her to be Japanese. Just knowing this it shows that Japan is slowly changing and accepting more things.

Overall, we had a lot of fun with Yodai and Maki, and it would be great to have them come visit us again. They even participated in our walk and talk speaking exercise, since today was the introduction into our new lesson on lifestyle. So we asked around saying “what do you usually do on the weekend” in Japanese. Some of us were able to talk to them during the activity. I wasn’t one of them but it was really fun having them join us.

Hiragana

By Angel Njoku

Recently, we took our mastery test for hiragana and I didn’t pass it the first time but I will try my best to pass when I take it again. I can honestly say that learning katakana was easier for me than hiragana. Hiragana is harder for me, because I can easily get confused with some of the symbols and, unlike others, I don’t really learn exactly from sound like say ka ki ku ke ko, but instead I learn it by the order that I put it in. I feel like katakana was easier for me, because it was the first system we learned, but mostly because the characters aren’t similar to each other so I didn’t get confused a lot.

Hiragana, for me, takes more studying, because now I can say that I studied more hiragana than I studied for katakana. I feel like learning both systems in the language is fun, but it can be hard at times, especially when there are things that I don’t understand. The harder things for me would also be writing out the romanji of the hiragana, because I can easily confuse characters, but there are some characters that I don’t know enough.

Sharing appreciation

Before winter break, we asked students to take time to express appreciation or recognize the accomplishments of one or two of their Japanese Plus classmates. The results:

Angel: Asa, thanks for always having a smile on your face. It’s really nice talking to you. You make the learning environment brighter.

Maria: I like how Angel tries hard and takes lead of our group. I also appreciate how both Carlos and Luis did the performance the other day alone.

Cyrus: I like hearing Alexx and Theo’s Japanese, because it sounds close to what I’ve heard in media.

Asa: I’m thankful for the encouragement of Lucca for helping me practice and also Che for being the person to help lighten the mood and make me laugh.

Chetachukwu: Carlos is a nice and funny person. It is really helpful and helps me grow educationally. Asa is a funny soul and I like her skirts.

Alexx: I’d like to thank Che for always being on point. She did a lot for our group and was really responsible. I’m glad I have her in my group. I’m also thankful for Gabe who always works really hard. He inspires me to push myself even harder.

Gabe: Jonah, keeping the class always positive and giving heartfelt thanks to visitors. Alexx, for helping a ton in my group, especially during the skit.

Jazmin: I would like to thank Theo and Elena for helping me a lot when learning my katakana. They always make me laugh, and I’m glad to have them in my group.

Katie: I’m really happy that Asa is here with me since she told me about this program and that she’s been with me this whole entire time, even if I am annoying to her. I’m also really happy that Jazmin is here since I can ask her about Japan since she has been there and that she is someone I know who can be there for me.

Jonah: Carlos is very optimistic and a good friend always willing to help. Kenny seems to always want to learn and never bummed and is fun.

Arjernae: I’m proud of Alayshia for being dedicated and not quitting even with people telling her to. I’m proud of Cyrus because he’s one of the few people I see and he acknowledges me when I come to class. Also he’s becoming more open and not as shy as he was in the beginning.

Theo: Jazmin is a very hard worker and I really respect her drive. Alexx has a strong grasp on the language and I find her very impressive in general.

What are you most proud of?

Before winter break, we asked our Japanese Plus students to reflect on their time in the program so far, and to share what they felt most proud of. Here are they answers:

Angel: I’m proud of the onigiri that I made and improving in katakana.

Maria: I am most proud of the self-introductions we have learned.

Cyrus: I guess just being able to talk to new people and not be a complete mess.

Asa: I’m most proud of me mastering katakana but mostly gaining more courage to speak out and meet new people.

Che: The fact that I memorized all my katakana. I know most of my combinations.

Alexx: I’m most proud of my speaking abilities in terms of public speaking. I’m not very good at speaking loud and clear, so I’ve been really happy with how far I’ve come.

Gabe: I went from knowing one Japanese word to being able to introduce myself and knowing katakana.

Jazmin: I’m most proud of my speaking skills, because I’ve improved a lot since the last time Eshita sensei taught me some phrases when I was in “Japan in DC.”

Katie: I’m really proud that we finished learning katakana and mastering it. I really thought it would take a long time to learn.

Jonah: Learning katakana and meeting with new people.

Arjernae: Learning basic Japanese is what I am most proud of (katakana, introduction, writing).

Theo: Probably the feeling of mastery over a different alphabetical system to the point that I recognize meaning relatively quickly.

Finding the right way with katakana

By Angel Njoku

There are people who are able to understand a language easier than others, while others need to put in the extra work to be able to understand it. I think that I’m in the middle, because I can understand it but it’s harder to memorize. In the beginning, katakana was very hard for me, because I didn’t really have a good study system. It was hard to keep track with katakana since we were moving quickly with it. I personally felt that in the beginning, I was stronger in speaking, like saying my introduction and family members, instead of learning katakana. I tried using the traditional flashcard method to study, but it really didn’t help me, because I would put the cards back in the order of the way that we learned them.

I used the websites that Maria gave me, which actually helped me a lot. I feel like those websites helped me out a lot because you were able to customize what you need to work on and it gives it to you in random order, so it wouldn’t be in the original order. I feel like the best way to find your learning skills is to use the process of elimination, which means try different study techniques until you find one that you believe is suitable for you. Once I used the websites, I felt more confident in katakana, especially with the ones that I know that I didn’t properly study at all. The websites that I used will be linked below, and I encourage anyone to use these websites, especially if you like the Japanese language.

https://www.tanoshiijapanese.com/practice/

https://www.sporcle.com/games/bazmerelda/katakana

https://www.sporcle.com/games/CommodoreAmazing/Katakana